Christopher Priest And Mark Bright Return To ‘Quantum And Woody’ [Interview] [NYCC 2013]
When it comes to “cult followings” in comics, few cancelled series in recent years can match the level of attention, discussion and love Christopher Priest and Mark Bright’s Quantum And Woody has engendered. Originally launched in 1997 under the auspices of Acclaim Comics, the series ran for an initial 17 issues, then briefly returned after a year off for five more issues, before seemingly shutting down for good.
Fast forward to 2013, when Valiant Comics announced a new Quantum and Woody ongoing series. Noticeably absent in the news, however, were creators Priest and Bright, replaced by James Asmus and Tom Fowler. But it turns out the two aren’t quite done with the series yet, as today at New York Comic Con Valiant announced that Priest and Bright will reunite for Q2: The Return Of Quantum And Woody, a five issue miniseries set 20 years after the end of the original run, in that series’ continuity. ComicsAlliance had the opportunity to talk to Priest and Bright, as well as editor Alejandro Arbona, about their return to Quantum And Woody, and what they’ve both been up to in recent years.
ComicsAlliance: When it first launched, Quantum & Woody felt to me in part like a spoof of the Lethal Weapon black guy/white guy buddy cop genre that was kind of in then, as well as superhero comics in general. But it’s been a while since that launch. Will the new miniseries address any trends in comics or even pop culture that are popular now?
Christopher Priest: I never really considered QUANTUM & WOODY a comedic book, or a funny book. I never thought of it as a satire. In fact, I think certainly with the early issues, there wasn’t really a lot to even suggest that it was even something like the Blue Devil, or one of these funny superhero books or satirical superhero books. It’s a buddy book, certainly. It’s a buddy action adventure, along the lines of something like Lethal Weapon, but I never thought we were spoofing or satiring. I just think that one of the characters obviously is someone who is prone to point out the little absurdities of being a superhero.
Lots of things that go on in mainstream superhero comics are just stupid. They just show up on the page and no one makes any mention of it. Well, Woody is going to mention it. If he sees something stupid, he’s definitely going to mention it. To that end, what we’re doing now with the new Valiant series is certainly a continuation of that theme and that flavor. But if people are — I just want to lower that expectation and not present Quantum and Woody as something that’s supposed to be comedy. It has comedic moments but it’s an action adventure buddy book. Not a satirical project at all.
CA: Quantum and Woody have very different personalities, and that contrast helped define their relationship. Twenty years later, how have they changed?
CP: There is no relationship. They had a falling out, a certain number of years back, and we’re being vague on exactly when the disagreement happened. First of all, the series is set 20 years in the future. They have not been a team in nearly two decades. They found a way to separate themselves so they don’t have to meet every 24 hours to keep from disintegrating, they solved that problem. So, Eric still lives on the east coast and Woody has moved to the west coast. Much like Mark and I, where Mark is on the east coast, I’m not on the west coast but a sneeze away from the west coast. Woody is essentially still Woody; emotionally he has not changed.
There are some physical things that we’re doing because obviously they’re both quite a bit older. Woody hasn’t changed at all. Eric, if anything he’s become better at what he does and more focused on what he does to the point where he’s driving the narrative without being that much in front of the camera, so to speak. Eric has refined his whole hustle here, with the Quantum thing. He’s become very good at it and very serious about it.
CA: Did you both always want to come back to this? Did you have this story in mind for a little while?
Mark Bright: Whichever time it was, the last time it went down, we just figured that was it. Perhaps at some point in time we’d so something. We had no idea how to do it and honestly, like Priest said, he’s half way across the country doing his thing. I’m over here doing my thing. It’s like, there wasn’t a bunch of thought about going back to re-invent these characters. They were fun to do while we were doing them, but once it was gone it was pretty much gone.
CP: I don’t think there is really much from my career that I want to go back to. I think that with most of the characters that I’ve been lucky enough to work with, I’ve said all I have to say about the Black Panther, Green Lantern and on and on. We certainly had a good run with Quantum and Woody. It wasn’t like we were hanging around saying “Man I wish I could get back on that book again.” The fact is, I’m not in comics and haven’t been in comics in a very long time. It was kind of — it took a couple of swings to get my attention about this project and idea. I thought that if we were going to return to these characters, then let’s do something that’s really different. Let’s not just pick up and start doing a monthly again, which would not really appeal to me. If we had the opportunity to do something that’s kind of an entity in and of itself, so to speak, where we’re not really dealing with continuity, theirs or ours, but we’re just dealing with the characters and we get to have a little fun with them — that started to take on some appeal, once the shape of the project came clear.
CA: Do you see this mini-series as the end of Quantum and Woody’s story?
CP: Never say never about anything, but honestly I haven’t given a moment’s thought to frankly anything past this project. For all I know, I’m writing my final comic book ever. I thought I wrote my final comic book ever eight years ago. Who knows?
CA: Both of you have done work that has endeared you to many comic book readers over the years, and this book marks a big return to the medium. Would you mind discussing what you’ve both been up to?
MB: There are several laws that prohibit me from saying what I’ve been up to [laughs]. Otherwise, I’ve been still basically doing comic books but it’s storyboards. Stuff for TV, commercials and stuff. The same kind of drawing, just that drawing doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t have to be good drawing, it just has to show the director what he wants to see. Even that’s a little weird and wonky; you draw what he says what he wants to do and he shoots something completely different. At least in a comic book, what you draw is what the story actually turns out to be. So that’s a little bit more rewarding, but by the same token you have to draw well. Well, the deadlines are a little looser. I can’t say that either one is better than the other. I’m still doing the same kind of drawing, it’s just the level of expertise that has to be brought to the project. It’s fun. I like comic books. I haven’t read one in over a decade, but I still like the medium.
CP: I was a wanted fugitive [laughs]. No, I’ve been doing a lot of branding and design work, ad work for churches and local businesses here out in Colorado. I’m an ordained Baptist pastor and I’ve just been involved in a much different life. I’ve just kind of immersed myself in ministry and been doing other things. I’ve been writing a bunch of novels that I never show anybody, which is a lot of fun because I’m writing for me and I enjoy doing it. I keep going, “well, I need to have my agent walk these around” and then I don’t think about it much anymore. What’s happening basically is that, every so often, I’ll get a call from DC or Marvel or someplace like that and they’ll want me to go and do Black Lightning or Black Goliath or Black Ant Man or something. At some point along the way, I stopped being a writer and I became a black writer.
I never used to be a black writer. I used to write Spider-Man, Green Lantern, whatever was lying around. Thor, Hulk, whatever. Now, if the phone rings or when the phone rings it’s almost exclusively some project that has something to do with my ethnicity. I’ve kind of made it clear that, hey, no offense, I’m flattered to be offered, sounds like a great project, but I really don’t want to be thought of in that way. So what happens is, some company will call me up offering me something, I’ll go “No I really don’t want to do that but here are these three other things that I’d like to do.” And I’ll share those proposals or pitches with them and they’ll go, “Eh we really don’t like that. How about Black Gorilla Man?” We don’t make it work, I thank them for the call and another 18 months go by and we do it all over again. That’s basically why I’ve kind of moved away from comics and just concentrated more on ministry, and writing novels that I don’t show anyone.
CA: I can tell you for certain that there are people who would like to read them.
CP: [Laughs] I’m talking to some people, and I hate saying that because it sounds so pretentious. There is a distinct possibility that some of this will actually turn into something available either electronically or in print next year.
CA: Alejandro, you’re editing this book and the Quantum and Woody ongoing at the same time. Do you see any kind of thematic overlap, or feel a need to kind of compartmentalize them as you’re editing?
A: No. They’re different books. To compare it to another publisher, it’s something like working on Marvel and Ultimate Marvel. I find it interesting to be dealing with script and pages for the original Quantum and Woody at the same time as we’re doing our 2013 Valiant Quantum and Woody. But they’re still very different. As Priest had said a number of times when we were talking about this project, it isn’t necessarily a humor comic. It is a comic that has a lot of humor in it. Where as when we deal with the Valiant Quantum and Woody, it is a comic you could describe as a lot more humorous.
It is still a comic about these two characters who are very close and love each other and also can’t get along, which causes a lot of entertaining situations. But it does create quite a stylistic shift working on one project and the other. So yeah, aside from the fact that thematically the characters are linked in certain ways, they’re two books that actually have two very different feels. Working on both of them, also when both are out in stores, reading those books will probably give readers quite a different sensibility.